A model for good government
Posted in the Dixmoor Forum
#1 Oct 8, 2013
A model for good government
Editorials October 7, 2013
In the name of clean, open and transparent government — so notoriously in such short supply in this state — Naperville has come up with a simple hiring reform that every local government would be wise to adopt.
Under a proposal that recently had its first reading, the suburb’s city council would have to sign off before any retired city public safety officer who is collecting a pension could be hired for a different city job where he or she could start collecting credits for a second public pension — an easily abused practice called “double-dipping.”
The Naperville ordinance wouldn’t bar the city from hiring a qualified applicant who just happens to be retired, but it would ensure greater oversight over any such double-dipping to make sure a thorough job search has been conducted, the best person is being hired, and it’s not all a clubby insider’s game.
Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said it’s “not an uncommon practice” among local governments to put people in new jobs that significantly boost their total pension income — good for them but bad for the taxpayer.
“Usually you get vested in a pension after 20 years — sometimes faster — and once you are vested you can’t get a higher percentage of your salary as a pension,” Simpson said.“If you go to work for another agency, and maybe work there five years, you can get 40 or 50 percent of your new salary added to your 80 percent from your earlier job.”
Insiders have long manipulated the pension system by switching public jobs in midcareer. Merging several government jobs into one pension is what allowed a former Oak Brook police chief from a prominent political family, for example, to boost his pension by $30,000 a year, which added up to a total additional pension liability of about $750,000 for taxpayers there.
Then there was the case of Robert Degnan, brother of the Daley family’s close ally Tim Degnan. In 2002, Degnan retired as the city’s $115,260-a-year fleet management commissioner to do virtually the same job for the CTA, paving the way for him to collect two simultaneous government pensions.
Government workers who have fully vested pensions have a perfect right to take a new job while collecting their pensions. But it creates a problem with public perception if they go right back to work for a related government agency. Taxpayers can’t help but suspect the system is rigged by insiders who take care of each other — and often they’d be right.
The issue came up in Naperville with the recent hiring of Police Chief Bob Marshall. Marshall had put in 27 years with the police department before retiring in 2005 and taking a job as Naperville assistant city manager, which has a separate pension system. Last year, the Naperville Police Pension Fund Board ruled he could continue to get his police pension, a decision that’s on appeal before the Illinois Department of Insurance.
Councilman Joseph McElroy, who introduced the ordinance, said Marshall is well qualified to be police chief, especially because his work as assistant city manager helps him understand the constraints of municipal budgeting.
But it’s an issue that keeps coming up, McElroy said, which is why it’s important to insist on direct authorization from elected officials.
The state already has put limits on pension double-dipping. Most former state employees can’t work for state government more than 75 days a year if they are drawing a pension, unless they want to forgo their pension payouts. The Naperville ordinance is only a small fix — it doesn’t touch what David Morrison, deputy executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, calls the bigger abuse of public employees who hold more than one job at the same time. That’s something else that should be spelled out on every local government’s agenda every time it comes up.
#2 Oct 8, 2013
This is exactly what Blue Island needs. However, will the Mayor and Aldermen live up to their political promises? Especially transparency. Remember the glossy post card of the Vargas campaign. They promised to be the most transparent ever. Or is it business as usual?
#3 Oct 8, 2013
If this ordinance was in place here in Blue Island. The former City Clerk and others would not be able to double and triple dip.
#4 Oct 11, 2013
Mayor Vargas you must adopt this ordinance.
#5 Oct 14, 2013
Are you crazy? Your new Mayor and his not so stellar team won't even allow it's citizens to comment at Council Meetings for more than three minutes. He doesn't care about what you have to say! They have a plan. Remember? I guess Robbins could be the first casualty of the plan. Open bridges? Now think.. Who would be coming onto town on those bridges? Not Bobby's friends for sure. Cut off the town... Make it an island. Sick bastards.
#6 Oct 19, 2013
Ex-mayor under oath in city’s Millennium Park lawsuit:‘I don’t know what I knew’
By TIM NOVAK Staff Reporter
Former Mayor Richard M. Daley says he doesn’t remember much about the planning of Millennium Park, his wildly over-budget project that has become one of Chicago’s civic treasures.
The sprawling downtown park, with its gleaming stainless-steel sculpture known as “The Bean,” is seen as one of his crowning achievements. Daley, though, shrugs it off. He says it wasn’t even his idea to build the $475 million park, instead crediting Daniel Burnham, the legendary planner who created Chicago’s master plan more than a century ago.
As Chicago’s longest-serving mayor, Daley had a reputation as a micromanager and stickler for details. But he recalls little about the many meetings he attended to plan the park and not much either about its controverisal restaurant, the Park Grill, according to a transcript of an often-contentious deposition the former mayor gave Aug. 29 at the law offices of his attorney Terrence Burns.
Daley is one of several former city officials who have given sworn, pretrial testimony in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2-year-old lawsuit to break the “sweetheart” deal that Daley relatives, friends and associates got in 2003 to operate the restaurant for 30 years.
Emanuel’s lawsuit says the “commercially unreasonable” deal has cost taxpayers more than $5 million because it gives Park Grill free natural gas, water and garbage collection while the restaurant on Michigan Avenue has paid the park district just $2.6 million from January 2004 through last July.
In his deposition, Daley says he doesn’t recall whether clout helped the Park Grill’s investors — including his cousin Theresa Mintle, who was Emanuel’s first chief of staff — win the restaurant deal over two other bidders, one of them a group that included venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, an Emanuel friend now running for governor.
The Park Grill sits on land owned by the park district and land owned by the city, but the City Council never was asked to approve the restaurant, which City Hall now says nullifies the deal.
Daley also says in the deposition he doesn’t remember the powerful Pritzker family balking at the original plans for a concert pavilion at Millennium Park until he agreed to a more lavish design by architect Frank Gehry.
Nor, he says, did he know in advance about Anish Kapoor’s popular Bean sculpture.
And he doesn’t remember attending the restaurant’s grand opening — not even after being shown a photograph of him there with the restaurant’s operators, James Horan and Matthew O’Malley. O’Malley impregnated a top park district official, Laura Foxgrover, while negotiations for the restaurant deal were ongoing — another issue in the lawsuit that Daley was asked about.
The deposition ended with Park Grill attorney Stephen Novack accusing the former mayor of ducking questions or answering only after being coached on what to say by his attorney or a lawyer for City Hall, according to a 162-page transcript the Chicago Sun-Times obtained from City Hall under the
Illinois Freedom of Information Act.
What follows are excerpts from the deposition, one of “five or six” the former mayor says he has ever given. Read the full transcript at
Daley on being mayor
Novack: How long were you mayor of Chicago?
Daley: Twenty-two years. I don’t know about the — maybe the hours. Maybe more than 22 years. Yeah, I don’t know what the hours were.
Novack: Were you ever asked in the 22 years that you were mayor whether the city should enter into a particular contract?
Daley: I don’t recall.
#7 Oct 19, 2013
Daley on Millennium Park
Novack: Was there ever a situation while you were mayor that the park district was doing a particular something that you didn’t like?
Daley: I wouldn’t recall. I don’t recall that.
Novack: OK. And having a park at Millennium Park was your idea, sir, wasn’t it?
Daley: No. It was Daniel Burnham’s.
Novack: Did you work on the concept of “The Bean?” Were you involved in that?
Burns (to Daley): Did you develop the concept of having — what do they call it,“The Cloud” or “The Bean” over in the park?
Novack:“The Bean.” Let’s start with “The Bean.”
Daley: No. I could never — no.
Novack: Did you know there was going to be a Bean?
Novack: At the park?
Novack: One day, you saw it, and that was the first time you knew about it?
Daley: I don’t even remember. I never knew it was coming.
Novack: So you were involved in some of the details at least?
Daley: Trees, size of trees, just making sure that the facility would be up-to-date. Trees. I’m a tree lover. Put that on the record.
Novack: Did you consider the park in any way to be one of your legacies as mayor of the city?
Daley: Well, it’s hard to say what a legacy is.
Novack: You don’t want to be associated with Millennium Park?
Daley: I would rather be associated with building a school.
Novack: As the park was being developed, it’s true, isn’t it, that you had regular briefings about the park?
Daley: I don’t recall. I could have had some briefings, but I don’t recall.
Daley on Park Grill
Novack: Do you recall Mr. Horan and Mr. O’Malley coming to your office and showing you renditions of what the interior was going to look like?
Daley: They could have. I wouldn’t recall. They could have.
Novack: Do you recall asking them to move the bar from the front of the restaurant to the back of the restaurant because you thought that would be more family-friendly?
Daley: I don’t recall.
Novack: Do you recall that you actually attended the announcement of the opening of the restaurant?
Daley: I don’t recall if I did or not.
Novack: OK. I’ll show you ... a picture of a bunch of people standing in front of some buildings. Do you recognize yourself in that picture?
Daley: It’s kind of blurry. I guess it’s me, if it is.
Novack: And you are there, aren’t you, for the opening of the ice rink ... and the restaurant being open for the first time?
Daley: I don’t know what it was for, but — I don’t recall.
Novack: In other words, is it your testimony that the first time you knew that they [Horan and O’Malley] were associated with the restaurant was that day?
Daley: I don’t know what I knew.
Daley on Foxgrover
Novack: Do you recall going over to Laura and hugging her and saying,“Everything is going to be OK?”
Daley: About what?
Novack: About what was said in this newspaper article [a Sun-Times story that reported Foxgrover had an affair with O’Malley and became pregnant during the restaurant negotiations].
Daley: No, I don’t recall that.
Novack: I don’t mean a romantic hug, sir. You know that. I’m talking about a friendship hug.
Daley: Oh. I know Laura Foxgrover. Very nice woman, very nice.
Novack: Do you remember saying to [Vince Gavin, Navy Pier’s security chief],“This is crazy what the Sun-Times is doing to Laura and Matt?”
Daley: I don’t recall that.
Daley on investors’ clout
Novack: Do you recall that there was an article that came out in the Chicago Sun-Times that accused — asserted that there was clout — political clout used by friends of you, Mr. Daley, for Park Grill to have gotten the restaurant concession at Millennium Park?
Daley: No, I don’t recall.
Novack: Do you believe — have you ever believed that they got the contract through political clout, yes or no?
Daley: I don’t — I don’t know.
Novack: Do you think there was anything improper about how the Park Grill got this contract?
Daley: I wouldn’t know.
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